Politics: SCOTUS on Breathing

Back in March, I posted about asthma, what the attack felt like in my experience. Now, in the rising Georgia summer heat comes the smog. The constant low-level death air. I’ve been tracking my breathing for about a month and noticed something was going “wrong” – my numbers were getting bad. Then I heard on the radio the weather saying it’s an orange smog alert.  Ah, now I know why my breathing has not been as good.

As everyone rejoiced the successes passes for the ACA and marriage equality, Monday I grieved the Supreme Court decisions (SCOTUS). For anyone who missed it, the Supreme Court handed down a decision on Michigan v. EPA which was looking at the regulations in the Clean Air Act (last amended in 1990). Reading through the opinion, yeah – the EPA probably pushed the bounds of the law right to the breaking point. I don’t agree with their statement “One would not say that it is even rational, never mind “appropriate,” to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits.”

Spoken like a man who has never had to watch others having fun and gasping for breath just by walking to the car. This is spoken by someone who can afford to go to a high-priced gym with really good air filters. It is five men communicating their disregard for life.  Really, “a few dollars in health […] benefits”?!?! The CDC estimated(1) the health cost of asthma (not bronchitis or some of the other things the EPA was working to avoid) cost the US $56 BILLION in 2007.

I would argue that imposing a few billion dollars – hell anything less than $56 Billion – is more than appropriate to prevent asthma from continuing to kill people at the rate of 9 a day(2). I almost called out of work Monday because my breathing was so bad. I pushed through, but I literally kept my rescue inhaler in my pocket and I tried not to walk to talk to anyone. I was less productive than normal.

I don’t like this ruling. Businesses were already complying with the cleaner, safer standards. And even more depressingly, I don’t expect this current congress can stop whining about the ACA or Benghazi long enough to tighten up the law in response to give the EPA the little bit of authority they may need. Or at least clarify the language to set expectations!  If the EPA could show that reducing particulate pollution would also impact the $56 billion in health costs for asthmatics – doesn’t that justify as “rational and appropriate” costs the businesses causing that damage must rectify?